Kaizer Chiefs wield the axe, send three players packing

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JOHANNESBURG, April 26 – Kaizer Chiefs are already looking ahead to next season as they officially confirmed the termination of three players’ contracts: Hendrick Ekstein, Gustavo Paez and Kgotso Malope.

The 24-year-old Malope managed just a handful of league games for Amakhosi over the past two seasons, never completing a full 90 minutes, and was an unsurprising departure.

Paez, 29, showed good promise after arriving midway through the 2016/ 17 campaign. But the Venezuelan never really kicked on from that and fell down the pecking order after the arrival of another South American, Leonardo Castro, as well as Khama Billiat.

In a league notoriously short on goal scorers, Paez, who showed glimpses of his striking prowess, may well find some suitors interested in his services, should he be happy to remain in South Africa.

It was Ekstein’s name which came as somewhat of a surprise. The diminutive attacking midfielder, who was promoted from the Chiefs Development ranks in October 2013, often divided opinion amongst supporters – some admired his incredible skill, but others were frustrated at his inability to find an end product in terms of goal scoring.

And while head coach Ernst Middendorp has voiced his support for Ekstein over the past couple of months, a reported contract dispute between the club and player resulted in him going missing for a couple of games, including Amakhosi’s 4-2 Nedbank Cup semi-final victory over Chippa United last weekend. He did, however, return for Chiefs’ 1-1 draw with Golden Arrows on Tuesday this week.

In total, the 28-year-old Ekstein featured in 19 league matches and three Nedbank Cup games for the Glamour Boys this season, scoring one goal in each of those competitions.

Although Chiefs have a good chance to end a four-year wait for silverware when they take on National First Division side TS Galaxy in the Nedbank Cup final in three weeks’ time, their league form has been disappointing.

The Soweto giants still have work to do to ensure they finish in the top eight, and it’s likely there will be a number of more player exits, and new signings, in the off-season. – African News Agency (ANA)